Friday, October 30, 2009
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month Comes to A Close...
I am always on the fence with breast cancer awareness month. I like that there is awareness brought to this awful disease so that women (and men!) can be proactive about their health. We all need reminders and if the sea of pink doesn't remind you, you have bigger issues than getting regular screenings. But then there are the pink haters who tell you about all the companies that make millions off the cause marketing. How many businesses would do anything that does not improve the bottom line? Hello? No company makes a donation without expecting something in return whether that is a tax break, good public perception, good employee morale, or (gasp!) profit. Many companies choose to go pink because it is good for them. Why is this shocking to some?

Now, how I support it is different. I do not purchase everything featuring the pink ribbon. I buy a product if I like or need it. If that company also supports breast cancer, then I think that is a great bonus. Do I support my local neighbor kids when they put up a lemonaid stand? Absolutely. Do I buy soup featuring a pink label? Not likely. The sodium in that stuff will kill you! When my friendly grocery checker asks if I want to donate a dollar to cancer research, I often donate. When I see pink bags of pink candy coated chocolate candies that melt in your mouth not in your hand I run from those too. Sugar? Fat? Not friends if you are fighting cancer. I also simply write a check and make donations that I know go directly to research. Or I get involved in cancer walks and relays. Never once did I think pink marketing would end cancer, but I do believe it makes us aware and reminds to get regular screenings. This is very important.

If you want to buy pink candy, socks, ties, soup, and ribbons, go for it. I won't judge you. I would suggest that if you are doing it to benefit cancer research, then be smart about it. Make sure the label states exactly how much is going to be donated. "A portion of the proceeds..." is not good enough. It should be specific, such as "20% of the proceeds" or "$5 from the sale of this item."

And I will admit, I did my own fair share of shopping this month. I bought the Brighton Power of Pink bracelet (above). I have each of their annual bracelets since they started the collection. This one is my favorite. It is covered in hearts. It was meant for me, right? And I also ran across these. I have no idea how much Master Lock will make off these products, but they do state they will donate $15,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I like them because they are cute and girlie and pink and they are great products. I would have bought a lock anyway, but since they were pink I bought two. Want one? Let me know. More importantly, do your monthly self check and schedule your mammogram already. You didn't forget, did you?

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
3 chimed in

Thursday, October 08, 2009
Stand By Her
Living through a breast cancer diagnosis or two truly helps you understand people and how they react to certain situations. I have learned so much about people from the faithful friends and family members who won't leave your side to the scared friends who hide from cancer and you in the process. It seems the ones who have had the toughest time addressing me or breast cancer have been the men in my life. First, the issue is intimate, scary, and emotional. All things that some men have a difficult time addressing. Of all the resources available about breast cancer, few address the needs of the men supporting women with this diagnosis. Luckily, that has changed.

STAND BY HER: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men by John W. Anderson (AMACOM Books, October 2009) is an excellent resource for any man who needs help in overcoming the fears and frustrations of seeing loved ones diagnosed with breast cancer. Not only does he share his own experiences with his mother, his mother's friend, his aunt, and his wife, he also provides strategies and support for navigating the breast cancer minefield.

I don't normally endorse products on my blog, but this is a great resource. Let's speak honestly here. Breast cancer treatment is so very tough for women, especially emotionally. A very large component of treatment involves serious hormone manipulation and often times physical changes. And frankly, if men were wired to be able to handle emotions and hormones, well, how do I finish that? It is an area where men and women are wired very differently leaving it difficult for men to understand how to offer the support a woman needs as she battles breast cancer. Don't get me wrong, some men handle all this like amazing champs, but everyone involved in a cancer diagnosis could use all the support available and then some.

Yes, I recommend this book, but I am not alone. This book is also endorsed by the Komen for the Cure Foundation. I like John W. Anderson. He has seen far more than his share of breast cancer in his lifetime, but he has used that painful experience to help others. Our caretakers are truly our heroes and John demonstrates this expertly in his book.

I want to share the love. In honor of breast cancer awareness month, I have a few copies of this book. Leave a message or drop me an email (link at the left) and I will send you a copy. No charge. Really. I'd like to get as many copies of this book into the hands of people that need it. But hurry; once they are gone you will have to find it on your own.

The more advanced we become with treatment and as the survival statistics rise, please know that women make it look easier and easier to fight breast cancer. Don't let us fool you. For many us, it will be the hardest thing we ever do. Anything anyone does to help ease the burden is never forgotten.

So who wants a book? Don't be shy. Drop me a line already.

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
4 chimed in

Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Breast Cancer Awarenss Month
Before we get engulfed in a pink cloud this month, I wanted to stay true to the purpose of the month and post some important information for young women facing breast cancer. This is printed from the Young Survival Coalition web site:

Young women CAN and DO get breast cancer. While breast cancer in young women accounts for a small percentage of all breast cancer cases, the impact of this disease is widespread. There are more than 250,000 women living in the U.S. who were diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40 or under, and approximately 10,000 young women will be diagnosed in the next year. But, despite the fact that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 15 to 54.

  • Many young women and their doctors are unaware that they are at risk for breast cancer.

  • There is no effective breast cancer screening tool for women 40 and under.

  • Young women are often diagnosed at a later stage than their older counterparts.

  • There is very little research focused on issues unique to this younger population, such as fertility, pregnancy, genetic predisposition, the impact of hormonal status on the effectiveness of treatment, psycho-social and long-term survivorship issues and higher mortality rates for young women, particularly for African-Americans and Latinas.

  • Young women diagnosed with breast cancer often feel isolated and have little contact with peers who can relate to what they are experiencing.

  • As the incidence of young women with breast cancer is much lower than in older women, young women are underrepresented in many research studies.
  • It doesn't matter your age, the time is now. Use this month in all its pink glory to remind you each year that it is time for the annual exam. You're worth it. Really.

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    Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
    5 chimed in

    Thursday, October 01, 2009
    An End and a Beginning
    Treatment came and went in what now feels like the blink of an eye. In these last couple of months I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my cancer journey and how it has changed my life. After my first diagnosis in 2004, I ran, scared, half-believing I was going to be okay, and tried to pick up where my life left off before cancer. I wanted cancer to go away so I could wipe the slate clean as though it never existed, but that was rather difficult. No matter how much I crammed into my life, cancer wouldn't be squeezed out. First thee was the lengthy reconstruction process and then there was the Tamoxifen. I hated Tamoxifen. I'd like to think I don't "hate" anything, but I hated that drug. I was tired, achy, had pain in my legs and joints, sweaty hot flashes, and just general malaise. I tried to push through and move forward, but BAM!, cancer reared its ugly head again.

    This time was going to be different. I was going to be a brave conquering warrior through every step. I worked out nearly every day in my fierce "Chemolicious" t-shirt and Harley Davidson do-rag (a gift of battle gear from a dear friend) to cover the blinding baldness. I made it through tedious radiation treatments and survived painful significant burns to my neck and axilla. And through it all, like many other women, I carried on with my life: working, volunteering, taking care of family( as they all took care of me). Beyond making a decision that cancer would not stop me, I made a decision to be kind to myself and nurture myself along the way. To teach myself how to do this (because you know I am a classic "do everything for others and make yourself the lat priority kind of gal"), I planted a garden. I had to learn how to care for the plants and how to help them grow and blossom. How much water did they need? How much sun? Did they need nutrients or more soil? I couldn't put it aside for later. I had to daily tend to the needs. Each day I saw progress. It became a great metaphor for taking care of myself.

    Along the way, I saw reminders that I was loved and not going through this alone. Whether it was encouraging cards or visits or phone calls, random acts of kindness, or special messages sent from....well, I can't answer that. Was it from the Universe? God? My mom? An angel? The hearts that were sent in my path randomly made me feel loved and secure no matter who sent them. And they keep coming.

    As I have written before, they come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it was something on the sidewalk that had my doggies' attention ...

    Or making an appearance in a piece of veggie bacon...

    Or yes, the ultimate of visions.....

    A tortilla. Whole wheat nonetheless. But don't line up at my door to see it. After I appreciated the message of love, it made a tasty vegetarian fajita.

    And for those of little faith, there were some very specific hearts as well. One by my house and one in the parking lot the day I started physical therapy.

    The rigorous treatment has come to an end. My time is now focused on regaining range of motion and strengthening my arm that suffered nerve damage from surgery and further scar tissue build up and damage from radiation. I am also juggling the side effects of Lupron injections (to shut down my ovaries) and Aromasin for ongoing hormone therapy (for the next few years at least). Luckily I am responding well to physical therapy and The Great Reiki Experiment 2009 (more to come on that). I'm moving forward and trying to continue to nurture myself, growing through everything life has thrown in my path. The garden experiment has taught me well. All kinds of things are blooming and growing...




    Horsetail Bamboo

    Pink Promise Rose

    My hair!

    Everything is growing indeed.

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    Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
    7 chimed in

    Name: Jeannette
    Location: Southern California, USA

    This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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